Tuesday 20 February 2018

Chelsea lead race for £50m Virgil van Dijk as Saints hunt replacement

Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA
Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA

Chris Bascombe

Chelsea have moved into pole position in the race for Southampton centre-half Virgil van Dijk, with the Saints considering Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho as a replacement.

Van Dijk will be one of the most sought-after players this summer with his club anticipating bids in excess of £50m, which would eclipse any previous Premier League fee for a central defender.

Manchester City are the most realistic rivals to the league leaders for the Dutchman's signature. He will have his pick of Premier League clubs but at this stage Chelsea are leading the chase. With John Terry unlikely to be offered a new contract at Stamford Bridge, a high-quality replacement is a priority.

Van Dijk (25) has been absent since January with a foot injury and is struggling to play again this season. He may have played his last game for Southampton.

The Saints are already planning to fill the void. Chelsea's Nathan Ake could head in the opposite direction. He is valued at £15m.

Sakho - currently on loan at Crystal Palace - is another possible replacement. Southampton held discussions with Liverpool about a move for the 27-year-old in January but baulked at the £20m price tag.

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Napoli have also registered an interest in Sakho. They are expecting to lose their highly-rated centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly at the end of the season.

Numerous Premier League clubs are keen on Koulibaly and Chelsea tried to sign him last summer but walked away when he was valued at £50m.

Liverpool will also be seeking an additional centre-half this summer, but their chances of making Sakho a lightweight in deals for Van Dijk or Koulibaly are slim given the competition for their services and the huge fees.

Burnley's Michael Keane's performances for England have reinforced the view he will soon be making a big-money move. Everton are among those interested.

Meanwhile, Liverpool hope their captain Jordan Henderson will return to the squad for this weekend's Merseyside derby after a month out with a foot injury.

Jurgen Klopp will also be anxious about the Brazilian pair Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino as they remain on international duty until midweek.

Liverpool will organise a private jet, costing in the region of £120,000, to ensure a swift return for the players from South America following Brazil's World Cup qualifier with Paraguay. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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